Robert de Niro woke every morning to a manually-set alarm clock, jumped out of bed, showered, shaved, and dressed in a suit and tie. He carried his leather briefcase to work, and set up his desk, awaiting the tasks of the day.
And when his young boss thought he was of no use to her at the age of 70, he waited patiently, found ways to help people, and was eager to work when she realized how much she did need him.
Yesterday, on the plane home from San Diego, I watched the movie, The Intern, starring Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway, and I bit back tears for virtually the entire movie.
Why, you might wonder?
Because de Niro in the character of Ben was so earnest and searching for his purpose, so kind and caring, with a genuine desire to help, and through all of that, he transforms the workplace of a tech retail startup. He brings humanness to millennials and to the crazy startup culture. He sees the good when no one else even knows it’s there.
And in turn people are drawn to him. In order to have a friend, you must be a friend, this I heard recently from a 103-year-old woman. Happiness begins with giving.
The mark of a great society is how we treat our children and how we treat our seniors. One look at America, and I can tell you we are failing.
This character in a film was having a ball with his job, being himself, living by his values and not changing himself to fit in.
He had priorities. He maintained respect for others and for authority, even if that authority was far younger than he.
His work ethic was strong, never wavering.
He exhibited loyalty.
Watching the movie, I missed my grandparents more than I usually do, and I realized, while they were here, I did not appreciate them as I should have.
Do we ever, though?
I am struck again and again by the realization that we rush through this beautiful life on our mission to achieve and to check off tasks and to earn more money and we think we are chasing happiness, but really, happiness is in the details we breeze past, never quite seeing.
Did I take the time while they were alive to fully love them, to listen, to truly connect? No. Life is short and so full of opportunities, but we take the wrong ones and ignore the right ones.
On my way to the San Diego airport, as the midday sun cascaded in through my open window, I had the gift of speaking with the taxi driver. He took the highway to avoid an event downtown, something Christian, he told me, and then he said he was Greek Orthodox.
Are you from Greece, I asked.
No, he said. I am from Jerusalem.
The longer we spoke, the more the veil came down. He realized he could trust me. I admitted I am Jewish. “I have great respect for the Jews,” he said.
When I told him I love Israel and have been there many times, he told me he loves Israel, too, that Israel is the “police officer of the Middle East.”
We commiserated on the mess that is the Middle East today, and he said, “Arabs are not open.”
Well, I said, some Jews are not, either.
We connected on a totally human level. At some point, he admitted that though his family is from Jaffa, he was born in Amman, Jordan, and I knew he was a Palestinian. But by then we were old friends. We had mutual respect. We had understanding.
The sun continued to shine, and the conversation got lighter, happier.
We ended the drive talking about whether peace is possible in the Middle East at all, and he said people need to be like a marriage, where the wife listens to her husband and the husband listens to his wife and love is in the middle. It’s that easy and so beautifully stated.
But when you live in a fast-track society, where the need to be right is greater than the need to love, and where relationships are disposable because we’re never the problem, the other person is, there is no path to peace.
The best way to have friends is to be a friend, said the 103-year-old woman.
I have come to believe that marriage is a choice. That when my husband drives me crazy (or I drive him crazy), we decide to stay. Every. Single. Day.
Peace is that easy. Just like a good life.